A DELIGHTFUL SHOW AT FILLMORE WEST
This past weekend's show at Fillmore West was one of the most enjoyable combinations of various musical strains that I've had the pleasure of hearing in some time.
The program the night I saw it included Pentangle, the British group whose album "Sweet Child" (Reprise 2RS 6334) is such a delight; The Grateful Dead, Shades of Joy, the Sir Douglas group and a juggler.
That's right. A juggler, Jim Rinehart, who has appeared numerous times at the hungry i, completely delighted the crowd and may very well have found an entirely new audience for himself. If he will now drop his corny night club rap with which he accompanies his dazzling juggling, the Fillmore audience (and its counterparts throughout the country) will love him.
The thing that turned me on musically about this show, however, aside from the excellence of the musicians themselves, was the marvelous mixture of influences and styles that were included.
Pentangle, as those who are familiar with its album know, does a wild variety of things, from Charles Mingus tunes to versions of old British folk songs. The group is acoustic, the guitars being amplified but not electric. There are two guitars, John Renbourn and Bert Jansch; a bassist (upright, not electric) Danny Thompson; a drummer, Terry Cox; and a girl, Jacqui McShee, who has a beautiful voice.
The guitars and the bass are voiced particularly interestingly and are played so beautifully that when they are heard over the loudspeakers there is no distortion, just a huge guitar sound. Jansch and Renbourn did a guitar duet, "No Exit," which was a delicate and fascinating blending of the two instruments. Thompson was featured on a bass solo which was really impressive, and Jacqui McShee's voice throughout, both in her solo numbers (she sang "No More, My Lord" from the album) and in harmony with the other voices, was beautiful. The whole thing is done in an exquisitely tasteful manner and includes considerable jazz influences in an unobtrusive way.
Shades of Joy is a local group (a spin-off of several other local units) which features wild free form modern jazz saxophone playing by Martin Fierro, a roaring R&B rhythm section and two voices, Martin and Millie Foster who is much better in this role than as a pure jazz singer. It's an exciting and interesting group.
Sir Douglas is really delightful. He got everybody dancing for once (just as Pentangle had all the musicians listening) doing his standards "Mendocino" and "She's About a Mover" and merging his regular group with some of the members of Shades of Joy.
It is rather a wild experience to see a group featuring a saxophone soloist who looks like the leader of a Third World Student picket line accompanied by a drummer who looks like he just got in from the cattle drive. Is there still hope?
The Grateful Dead are the Grateful Dead, which is to say they are absolutely wonderful. They have one of the most individual sounds of any band and its tone is set by the soft butter feeling of Jerry Garcia's guitar lead. They featured Pig Pen on the blues and they did the long side from their last album, "Anthem to the Sun," which is called "That's It for the Other One."
Despite some technical problems on stage they were warm, mellow and moving, and their voices were much more impressive than they have been at times in the past.
To hear their long instrumental passages with Garcia and Phil Lesh (on bass) weaving lines above the tremendous rhythms of the two drummers, Bill Sommers and Mickey Hart, is a joy. Tom Constaten, a pianist who studied at Mills when Lesh was there, is now with the group and Pig Pen occasionally plays conga drums.
It was - all in all - a truly delightful evening.
(by Ralph Gleason, from the "On The Town" column, San Francisco Chronicle, March 3 1969)
Thanks to Lost Live Dead -
And for Pentangle's effect on Garcia: http://lostlivedead.blogspot.com/2010/03/fillmore-west-february-27-march-2-1969.html
See also this recent memoir of the 3/1/69 first set, with a somewhat different lineup: http://cryptdev.blogspot.com/2010/10/finally-grateful-dead-fillmore-west.html